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December Garden Tips

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator


  • Clean and store hoses and flower pots.
  • Clean and sharpen lawn and garden tools and store them in a dry storage area.
  • Store leftover garden chemicals according to label directions, out of the reach of children.
  • A home weather station that includes a minimum/maximum thermometer, a rain gauge and a weather log is a good gift for a gardener.
  • Drain the fuel tank of the lawn mower or tiller before putting the machine away for the winter. Check belts and sparkplugs, change the oil, sharpen the blades, and clean so equipment is ready to go when needed next spring.
  • Start reviewing and expanding your garden notes to help with next year's plans.

HOME (Indoor plants and activities)

  • When shopping for a Christmas tree, check for green, flexible, firmly held needles and a sticky trunk. Make a fresh cut, and keep the cut end under water at all times.
  • Leave holiday cactus in a cool location for as long as possible to promote bud set.
  • Check fruits, vegetables, corms and tubers that you have in storage.
  • Increase humidity around houseplants by running a humidifier, grouping plants or using pebble trays.
  • House plants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plant, benefit if their leaves are washed with a damp cloth to remove dust.

LANDSCAPE (Lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers)

  • After Christmas, your real tree can be moved outside and redecorated for the birds with strings of popcorn, fruit and pine cones covered with peanut butter then dipped in birdseed.
  • Do necessary pruning after trees and shrubs have become dormant.
  • Protect from extensive snow loads by tying woody stems together with twine. Carefully remove heavy snow loads with a broom to prevent limb breakage.
  • Minimize traffic on a frozen lawn to reduce winter damage.

GARDEN (Vegetables, fruits and herbs)

  • Check fruit trees for mouse damage and respond with appropriate traps and/or poisons.
  • Check on fruit and vegetables in cool storage. Remove any that show signs of spoiling.



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.